Tattooing can be many things: a way to adorn or to reclaim your body, a healing process, an act of rebellion, a search for an identity, a pure love for art or a way to let yourself feel something, on a physical but also spiritual way. Whatever your reason is, it is important to choose a tattoo artist who gets it, who is there for you with knowledge, respect and understanding. Drew Linden is one of those artists who gets it… life can be harsh at times, we all come from different paths, and people can judge you or make you uncomfortable at times, but that doesn’t necessarily have to happen in a tattoo studio.
Her new private space, The New Moon Studio, located downtown Brooklyn, in beautiful Dumbo, was born from the collaboration with tattooer Zoe Bean, and their main purpose is to give their clientele beautiful tattoos, in a positive, spiritual and respectful atmosphere. Drew made her way to NYC from San Diego, and while she had to fight the initial skepticism about a woman doing tattoos, here she is today, 9 years later, accomplished and skilled tattooer, very comfortable in her own skin. I go check out the new space and talk to Drew about what’s really important in tattooing and in life. Follow me…
You defined yourself as an intuitive tattooer: can you explain this concept? How does spirituality affect your tattooing?
Intuition it’s feelings… I believe that a lot of times when people come to get a tattoo by me it’s to help them heal. Even if it’s just a small flower. I do a lot of cover-ups of self harm scars, or older tattoos that carry negative feelings. That can really change somebody state of mind and life.That’s the healing aspect of tattooing that I’m interested in. I also started doing brows (microblading) a year ago. Eyebrows can modify your face – they can boost your self confidence, and cosmetic tattooing can also help individuals with alopecia or going through chemo. That is such a beautiful healing process, and it’s so rewarding, both for customer and artist. Intuition for me starts at the first meeting: when people come in for their consults I ask “what were you thinking of getting tattooed?” And once they start talking I get a feel of what they are really looking for, and I get a first idea of how to do the tattoo, how to place it, you get like an inside look, a feel of the personality you are about to work with.
It’s hard to put being an intuitive tattooer into words: it’s all based on feelings and inclusive positive energy.
Beyond that, I feel that in my spiritual practice I’ve been able to tap into a more ritualistic side of tattooing, like a sacred scribe. There are things that I do before a tattoo that give it that ritualistic aspect. In my practice alone, coming into the shop before I start tattooing, there is a prayer, there is time devoted to sageing and asking for protection. In that I’m asking for my guides to come in and protect me and my clients, which allows them to get the best energy and tattoo from me.
Would you consider yourself a witch?
I think that being a witch in 2018 is really… I don’t know… trendy, I guess? And there are fakes out there that are trying to use spirituality as a way to market themselves. And because it’s so popular, you can get things like crystals and sage at urban outfitters. And that can be really harmful. Tattooing is ultimately a blood ritual: there’s much more than ink and art involved, it’s an exchange of energies. I don’t consider myself a witch, although that’s the easiest comparison. I’m a lightworker: someone who works with archangels and different deities. I practice from the good aspect. I do nothing with malice, I don’t hex or cast spells. It’s all very positive and I think that’s reflected in my tattooing.
Your style of tattooing is very bold, simple and strong at the same time… would you describe your style as masculine? Is being a woman and a feminist relevant for your tattooing?
I want to get away from the idea that being a strong tattooer means “tattooing like a man”. Anyone can be a strong tattooer. I had a traditional street shop background and my use of bold lines and bright colors maybe can come across as traditionally masculine… But I don’t want to call it that – this industry was traditionally male dominated, and now there are incredible women coming in, and I think describing us as “tattooing like a man” is just an easy way out… Let’s change that! Let’s just call it a good tattoo. Gender has nothing to do with it! But, I do think that being a woman has brought positive aspects to my tattooing. Some people only feel comfortable with women and I think being a woman and creating a safe space allows everyone to feel comfortable. I just want tattooing to be inclusive. Let’s just all do good tattoos without discrimination. By being a feminist and speaking up and fighting for this inclusion, I hope I’m making this industry better for the folks starting out, so that they can focus on just being good tattooers. That’s it.
What’s your background and when did you start getting interested in tattooing ? Your roots are into traditional old school, where did you get that passion?
I am originally from San Diego, California, which is rich in tattoo culture. I started getting tattoos at 16, and I always loved getting tattooed. I went to college to become a writer – my creativity came from words, but I also received minors in music and art history. When I was 19, I got an after school job as desk help at my local tattoo shop. After a year of going to college and working at the same time, I decided that school wasn’t what I wanted anymore – I fell in love with the idea of working one on one with people all day as a tattooer. In a year I went from wanting to write for Rolling Stone to knowing I wanted to be a tattooer. Same creativity, just a different outlet. When i first said “mom I want to be a tattooer”, she was skeptical, but I said “it doesn’t matter if i’m living in a shack, at least I’ll be doing what I love”. And that’s still true. Growing up in a heavily military and Navy city, tattoos were everywhere, a lot of them traditional.
Dave Gibson had a shop in downtown San Diego, Tahiti Felix Master tattoo had been opened since 1949 (fun fact: I was the first female tattooer to be gainfully employed there) and knowing and living with that history is what led to me wanting to start with that same style. When working at that first shop, a lot of the flash was traditional designs: think Sailor Jerry, Dave Gibson, Stoney St Clair. I started re-drawing those. And knowing the pike was only an hour away on long Beach, seeing all these traditional tattoos, and going to tattoo events – that’s where my love of traditional tattooing came from. I think my mentor, Mike Martin of Flesh Skin Grafix, and the people I surrounded myself with in the San Diego tattoo family were a really significant influence for me and my style. I’m still really community driven – I love learning from and working with all kinds of amazing tattooers from every kind of style. I’m an equal opportunity, no bullshit, team player.
Coils or rotaries? How you describe the evolution of your style?
Coils! I can do anything with a coil machine that I could do with a rotary. So i don’t need a special tool to do dotwork or pack color. When I was starting out, I told Juan Puente that I was thinking about getting a rotary, and he said “learn how to do anything you wanted to do with a rotary really well with that coil, and then you can get a rotary”. I still use coils! Thanks, Juan. Great advice! Plus, I know how to work with and tune my coils myself. I will say though that there are some really cool rotaries out there, so you never know! I think my style is always evolving! I’m used to doing traditional tattoos, but I’ve done more blackwork in the last two years than ever before. I think it’s starting to feel like a neo traditional style, where you use a bold lineweight to outline the entire tattoo but introducing thinner line weights within the tattoo to create movement. With neo traditional I’ve gone away from just using the staples of red, yellow and green, to using a more muted and varied palette to help create that movement. But black is black.
I know you also have a deep rooted interest in astrology. How does that affect your life and your tattooing (if it does)?
This one is hard to answer. I think it’s so much a part of my life that I don’t even think about it anymore! I read my horoscope every day. A lot of people think astrology is made up – but it’s just math and science. You can’t fuck with the stars. The way planets align for a natal chart can be a guide, it can give you insights into people, it’s a way to share knowledge. With tattooing, I think knowing someone’s natal chart helps me know what to tattoo and how to tattoo it for them. It’s part of what feeds that intuition. And I’m doing more astrology tattoos – Desi’s backpiece (in the pic) is her natal chart, for example. I love that more and more people are taking an interest in astrology. It’s nothing to be scared of – just a cycle and lessons to be learned. Also, Mercury is never IN retrograde, it IS retrograde. Just saying.
Tell me something about your relationship with tattooer Zoe Bean and how you decided to open up a studio together…
Well I love Zoe. We started working together at Eight of Swords, and over that four year period we became very close. I think we share a lot of the same beliefs and values: we both wanted a safe and inclusive and welcoming space for ourselves and our clients. We’ve both worked at an array of shops, and done guest spots, and conventions over the years, so we’ve learned a lot. All those experiences came together and the timing was right, and we were able to draw on all of that to create The New Moon Studio. We would love visitors to come see our new space!
You can book with me for tattoos and brows at drewlinden.com, or follow me on social media. Our shop Instagram is @thenewmoonstudio. I also travel frequently for conventions and guest spots, but you can always find out where I’ll be!
Who is Drew when she is not tattooing? What do you like to do the most?
I like to watch costume dramas and read romance novels and hang out with my friends and cats. I like to drink fancy cocktails. I love museums, and music and traveling, and trying new restaurants. I’m also a huge nerd. And lately I’ve taken up boxing! Especially as a tattooer with an autoimmune disease (diabetes), it’s SO important to exercise and eat well, and take care of myself. I think actually that’s something that all tattooers need to think about – we spend so much time sitting, or bent over a table. Exercise is a necessity.